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Movie Review

The Road to El Dorado

MPAA Rating: PG for mild thematic material and language

Reviewed by: Deanna Marquart
CONTRIBUTOR

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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Kids Family
Genre:
Animated Comedy
Length:
1 hr. 29 min.
Year of Release:
2000
USA Release:
_____
Image from “The Road to El Dorado”
Featuring: voices of Kevin Kline, Armand Assante, Kenneth Branagh, Edward James Olmos, Rosie Perez
Director: Don Paul, Eric Bergeron
Producer: Penney Finkelman Cox, Sandra Rabins, Brooke Breton, Bonne Radford
Distributor: Dreamworks SKG

What elements are needed for an action-packed animated family film? Stunning animation, comedy, character transformation, a good verses evil conflict, cute and adorable sidekick animals, and wayward but loveable heroes.

Enter Miguel and Tulio, the comic duo con-artists. After having won a map to the legendary city of El Dorado, then being caught for cheating, they become inadvertent stowaways aboard Cortes’ ship bound for the New World. A set of mishaps lands them on the exact beach described in the map that would lead them to El Dorado. After finding the city, the high priest, Tzekel-Kan, sees them as the embodiment of the prophesied coming gods. As a means of saving their lives and of obtaining the desired gold, they quickly embrace the façade of gods, carried on by the help of Chel, a devious bright-eyed native girl who strikes a deal with the two, by dumb luck, and by the clever assistance of an ally armadillo. Unfortunately, Tzekel-Kan is an evil man, bent on the two “gods” ushering in the Age of the Jaguar, a reign of terror and death. Additionally, the unseen impeding threat of Cortes and his army finding the city continuously looms over the horizon.

In this film, I am reminded of the parable of the Kingdom of Heaven being likened unto the catch of many fish in a net. The good and bad fish are sorted and separated (Matt. 13:47-50). As with most movies produced these days, one needs to take in the whole story as is and sort out the good and bad.

The negative elements of the film are few, but notable. Chel is created as an overtly voluptuous character, which I found out of place for a film geared towards a younger audience. In addition, there is implied sex between Chel and Tulio; though, since they are both still fully clothed, it can just as easily be implied they actually did not. There is, however, full rear nudity of the two men when they jump into a hot spring, and again when they have to chase some monkeys who are stealing their clothes. A few scenes may be too scary for younger children. In one scene, Tzekel-Kan nearly has a cowering man thrown over the Temple platform as a sacrifice to the gods. In a later sequence, he summons a giant demon/monster that tears through the city. Pagan revelry is partaken of, but in a much toned-down form, so that comic drunkeness is the worst that is seen. The only allusion to Christianity in the film comes through Cortes as he refers to God’s mission. One of the leads says *hell* once, but fortunately that is it for foul language.

The positive elements are obvious as well. As with any good family film, the violent scenes discreetly eliminate or hide anything gruesome; thus it is a presentation of violence without being violent. Miguel frequently sticks his neck out to save the citizens from becoming sacrificial victims. Additionally, he displays an uncanny compassion towards the people that becomes a true heart of love for them. Tulio as well comes to realize that love, friendship, and the lives of others are greater riches than gold. Though it is typical in a film of this caliber for the heroes to begin being motivated by greed and end being motivated by love, one still cheers when Tulio finally decides to do what it takes to save the citizen’s lives, even if it means (sniffle!) sacrificing his beloved obtained gold. Finally, Tzekel-Kan believes he discovers his bloodthirsty god of prophecy in the form of Cortes, but instead discovers the principle of reaping what you sow.

The animation in the film is exquisite, being described by critics as having “bold colors” and whose “imagery has considerable beauty and grace.” The Elton John-Tim Rice music score, however, is described by critics as disappointing for not being as memorable as with other films Elton John has performed in. I found that even though the lyrics may not have stood out, the music itself is catchy and does get your feet tapping. Another criticism I read suggests that the friendship between the two men strays out of bounds. I myself saw no hints of impropriety between them.

Although this film may in the end not win any awards, and despite its flaws, I still found watching “El Dorado” to be an enjoyable, relaxing way to spend an evening. I personally have not laughed so much during one film in a long time.


Viewer Comments
“The Road to El Dorado” contains some unusual elements for an animated family film—nude male buttocks, sexual double-entendres, and a lead female character that some feel dresses and acts like a prostitute. Two secular reviewers tell us that the relationship between the two male lead characters subtly “strays beyond the bounds of conventional friendliness.”
Movie Critics
…animation is on par with Dreamworks’ last traditionally animated film, “The Prince of Egypt,” but the story is much more formulaic… more Disney-ish…
—Jon Popick, @NZnone Entertainment Magazine
If, after THE PRINCE OF EGYPT you wanted to go as far into wacky as you went into serious… you would make THE ROAD TO EL DORADO… silly, funny, irreverent, insane… odd… and STRANGE.
—Harry Knowles, Ain’t It Cool News
…Although not obvious, sex behind the sofa is strongly implied [between Tulio the lead male and Chel, the native woman]…
—John Evans, Preview Family Movie and TV Review
…storyline is thin and loosely structured, the characters are uninteresting, and the requisite musical numbers are forgettable…
—James Berardinelli, Reel Views
Wouldn’t recommend it for young children.
—Jane Harrold, age 40
THIS IS NOT A KIDS FILM!!!… The movie opens up with our “heroes” cheating in a dice game. It moves on to lies, stealing, sex, pagan rituals, cursing, etc. It should have received an R-17 rating. If this film was human instead of animation I think the MPAA would have judged it more harshly. I was very disappointed in the fact that it is not for children as I was lead to believe. My Ratings: [Average / 3]
—Scott C, age 36
Always leary when we go to a free, before release preview with our 6 and 8 year old. The animation was as good as anything out. The chacaters are all likable and funny including a horse. Some clever and original scenes. Downside… witch doctor/magican who talks about and demands a blood sacrifice. He also becomes possessed along with a statue which was a bit intense. And then the scene where the characters are on top of each other, no doubt to what was going on. That part went over my childrens heads, but I felt uncomfortable myself and for other parents there. The main chacters and the girl are common con artist. Much talk of the “GODS” and making fun of them. The “H” word was used a couple of times. Remember there is no fast forward button to push at this movie! My Ratings: [2½/3½]
—Clark Julian, age 43
I agree with the comments of two of the reviewers, there is a sex scene, although behind a sofa and the characters are not very interesting, or even that likeable. The two main characters are thieves, and the purpose of their visit to El Dorado was to rob it. For the most part, it is a forgettable movie, although if you love animated movies for the animation, it has some stunning animination. However, I would not take a young child to see this movie, you may end of having to explain things you really don’t want to. This movie contains sexual references and is based on pagan beliefs—the main characters are believed to be gods by the citizens of El Dorado and they are supposed to bring bloodshed and cleansing to the city—there are human sacrifices (although stopped by the “gods”). While, in the end, the main characters redeem themselves somewhat, overall it is a very weak story. I would not recommend taking young children to this movie. My Ratings: [2½/3]
—Mary, age 32
I took my children, ages 11 and 14, to see this film, hoping for the best. The film had its good points, I enjoyed the quality of the animation, and the story had the warm predictability one expects from family films. But there were several moral problems. The character Chel bothered me in part because she was the only female character, and was presented in a way suggesting that a woman should flaunt her sexuality in order to get ahead. I was as troubled by some of the reviewers by the implication of sex behind the sofa—but something else troubled me more. I believe that religion itself is presented in the film as a generally negative factor in human life. The religion of the people of El Dorado is presented as one from which they have to be freed—not freed in the Christian sense, but freed in the secular sense. (Being hemmed in by religion is bad, following your own desires is good.) The only overtly Christian symbol in the film is the cross that appears on the sails of the ships of Cortes—and Cortes and his men are presented as the embodiment of evil. Thus, the message seems to be that religion generally is bad, and Christianity is particularly bad. My Ratings: [1½/3]
—Stephen, age 45
When my wife and five (5) year old sat down to watch this film we were ready for a cartoon. What we received was some of the best animation we have seen in years! The action was good! The characters loveable. Rosie Perez’ voice was familiar and loveable. My Ratings: [3½/5]
—Rick Kelsey, age 48
Yuck! If I wanted to take my neice and nephew through a mockery of new gospel and blood cleansing songs I would just turn on the TV. The lyrics were ungodly and the absoulute human sacrifice scenes were demonic… My Ratings: [1/4]
—Mary Rose, age 39
I found the movie to be good “light entertainment”. The main characters were enjoyable and loveable to watch. The slave girl was mildly feminist, but not overtly so. The plus side was the stunning graphics and great repoirtoire between the characters. The only down sides were the lackluster music and skimpy story line. Overall, a good film for kids and adults. Little kids may not pick up on some of the jokes. It is good to get another player in the animated movies business other than Disney. My Ratings: [3/3½]
—Ralph de Leon, age 42
I have read comments which suggest that young children should not see this movie, I however, would not take any children to see this movie. The younger children may think it is funny to see the main characters butts, and will probably not really know what is going on between the two characters in the “sex scene” and may not catch the fact that the evil high priest was going to sacrifice humans, but the older child will, and all the more harm if they do catch those things. The younger child will be scared by the monster scenes and probably disturbed by the death which appears throughout the movie, ending with the armadillo finally eating a little butterfly that has been flittering thru the whole movie, one final sick twist. The high priest pushes his sidekick into a vat of some concoction to make the brew complete and give him powers. Of course, the sidekick is killed in the process. Evil stuff. The word “Hell” is used twice, at least and with great emphasis—highly improper in a movie geared toward children. One of the main characters exclaims “Holy Ship!” at one point. Gee, I wonder what he wanted to say? The implied cursing, sex, death, drunkenness, orgy-type situations are totally inappropriate. The whole pagan gods thing is an issue that could just as well have been left on the cutting room floor. Kids don’t need that sort of explicit exposure to something so shocking and new to them. The people who made this film have no business making children’s films. I put this movie right DOWN there with “Babe II, Pig in the City”…a rather sadistic flop. My “moral” rating for this movie is lower than for what would be considered more offensive movies because of the vulnerability of its target audience. Adults will be embarrassed by the improprieties of the movie, including the lead female part, as well as irritated by the psychedelic music scenes which were unimaginitive and uninspired. The music was instantly forgettable. Do yourself a favor …miss this movie. My Ratings: [1/3]
—Dale, age 28
We took our entire family to view this movie. Our children are 12, 8 and 7 mos. (she slept). My eight year old picked up on the fact that there was more than just kissing going on behind the couch. There are 2 places where they use the expression “Let’s get the H__ back to Spain” and one place where they say “Holy Ship” as their small boat is about to be struck by one of the larger ships. Clearly placed there for effect as it leaves the viewer wondering what was really said. Of course all these items could have been left out and it would have been a totally enjoyable movie. I question the critics that imply there is more than friendship between the two main male characters. I think they’re reading a little too much into this friendship. I wouldn’t recommend this picture for the preschool and younger set. Maybe not younger elementary age either. My Ratings: [3/3]
—B. Gonzalez, age 41
From the opening song that states the gods decided to bestowe upon us mere mortals a city of gold, to the end where we are suppose to think we can be god like or god should be like us, this movie is not for Christians. This show demeans God and His importance and the fact He sent His Son to save us. The main characters Tulio and Miguel are two spanish con artists who find a map to El Dorado and make there way there. They are mistaken for gods and they take advantage of this, unfortunately through the whole movie. I found this very disturbing and parents with young kids are going to have to spend the evening explaining that we are not gods nor will become gods and that God our Father is not some simple human who can make mistakes etc. Another problem is the shaman/witchdoctor that is clearly possessed. Kids very well might get scared. This movie is rated PG for good reason. The main female lead walks around swinging her hips suggestively and wears a very skimpy outfit. There is a scene with Tulio which implies very much that the two of them were having sex. I personally thought that the story was wasted. A better one would have been if Tulio and Miguel had to save the tribe and city from the Spanish and the wizard. The songs were okay, but even they were not really ones to remember unlike many Disney ones. The only good thing here was the graphics. They were about the same as with the “Prince of Eygpt”. Overall, I think Christians should stay away from this cartoon. There are just too many disturbing scences and blasphemies against God to waste your time on this film. My Ratings: [1/2]
—Rachele Stuart, age 25